Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Living Edition
| Editors: Fred R. Volkmar

Analysis of Verbal Behavior (AVB)

  • Trina D. SpencerEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_1882-3


In his book Verbal Behavior (1957), B. F. Skinner defined verbal behavior as “behavior reinforced through the mediation of other persons” (p. 2). Following this definition, filling a glass with water results in a filled glass and is not verbal behavior, whereas saying, “Can you fill my glass?” depends on the behavior of another person to mediate the consequence of the request to fill the glass. Because verbal behavior does not act on the environment directly but rather through the behavior of others, it requires a separate analysis. Nonetheless, Skinner asserts that the same behavioral principles of reinforcement, punishment, and discrimination can account for verbal behavior (i.e., communication) as they do for any other behavior.

Historical Background

In 1934, Alfred North Whitehead challenged Skinner to use behavioral principles to account for language. Despite Whitehead’s cynicism, Skinner began his book Verbal Behavior (1957), which took him over 20 years to complete....

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References and Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rightpath Research & Innovation CenterUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA